"What's An Airplane Doing At A Boat Show?"

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Getting lots of attention from potential new pilots, hopefully. Mark Bennett, New England regional sales rep for Cirrus Aircraft, parked himself outside the entrance to the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show last weekend, one of the largest events of its kind in the country. Bennett brought along a full-scale mockup of a Cirrus SR-22 and invited all comers to climb aboard and check it out. The mock-up is an actual aircraft off the production line, only lacking an engine. The wings have been altered to make them easily removable, so the mock-up can travel up and down the East Coast on a truck, helping the sales staff troll for new customers at a variety of non-standard venues. "This airplane has been to boat shows, car dealer's showrooms, in hotel lobbies, you name it," says Bennett. All in all, the airplane and its fully equipped cockpit host about 25,000 potential buyers per year.

"We don't expect to actually make sales at these events," Bennett said. "But we are gathering leads, and we take interested prospects up for a flight [in Bennett's fully functional Cirrus, parked at a nearby airport]. And we're introducing new people to the idea of using a general aviation aircraft for business and for personal use." Last week's visit to Newport was the second year that Cirrus has exhibited at the show, Bennett said. "Last year, the most-asked question was, 'What's an airplane doing at a boat show?' But this year, we're hearing less of that. I think people are kind of starting to get it."